Kyazze drove his truck into cuffs of concocted charges
By Brenda Banura
Posted Saturday, March 10 2012 at 00:00
With his head tilted and hands held closely between his legs, Sulaiman Kyazze sat in an empty office as he waited to talk to me. I stood at the door for a few seconds thinking he heard me walk to it and would look up. But he maintained his posture. On knocking, he looks up towards the door but at a spot further away like he is not seeing me. He has a pensive look that disappears a few seconds after.
Kyazze is, or in this case we can say he was, a heavy-duty truck driver, a job he did for 25 years until October 19, 2006, when he got business from wrong people. “It seemed like an ordinary day only to turn out to be regrettable. I had packed my truck in Ndeeba when two men approached and asked to hire it to transport material, including iron sheets and ridges from Tororo to Nateete,” he narrates.
After agreeing on payment, they set off for Tororo Steel Works. Along the way, they picked a man from Mbale. This man turned out to be in charge of loading the material onto the truck. On their way back, he was dropped at the same spot they had picked him from in Mbale Town, and the rest headed for Nateete.
Kyazze says after off-loading all the material at the workshop in Nateete, he was paid and parted ways with the men who had hired him. However, eight days later while transporting another person’s goods from Kampala to Kisoro near the border of DR Congo and Uganda, he was stopped by the police.
“The police officer said a case had been filed against the vehicle. We (Kyazze and the turn boy) were then arrested and taken to Mbale Police Station but were later handed over to police officers from Tororo.
Detention and torture
While at Mbale Police Station, he was told of a filed complaint that he had not delivered goods transported from Tororo to its intended destination. “After correcting them that the destination was Nateete and not Lira, I told them I left the goods at the warehouse in Nateete on October 19, 2006. But they insisted that they were supposed to be taken to Lira not Nateete and I was held,” Kyazze, 52, says.
“From then on, we kept on moving from one police station to another. At some point we were handed over to the defunct Violent Crime Crack Unit (VCCU) commonly known as “Operation Wembley”, who tortured us for a week. They would hit us with batons on any part of the body most, especially the ears, ribs and ankles.”
By the time they were transferred from the “Wembley” detention Cell in Mbale, “my hearing had been affected.” Kyazze speaks in an emotionless tone. He is a man hardened by the injustice of the systems in Mother Earth. He talks while gazing in the open space, his eyes with an empty look.
When they were transferred back to Tororo Police Station, a man of Indian origin claiming to be the owner of the goods—Deepark Dartta—showed up to make a statement. He also affirmed to the police that Kyazze is the man who stole his goods. But Kyazze says he had never seen Dartta before then.
“We hadn’t met during the transaction and we were meeting for the first time. That is why I was shocked when he said he knows me and I am the one that had loaded the goods on the truck, itself a lie for there was the other man from Mbale who had loaded the goods,” he says.
After staying at various police posts for more than two weeks, Kyazze and his colleague appeared before court and were charged with theft of the goods and remanded to Tororo. A month later, he was released on bail.
“Life during that time was so difficult. In fact, it felt longer than a month. We had one meal a day at 5pm. We shared a room with about 60 other people. We also dug everyday, which was the hardest thing for me, especially since I was still in pain from the beatings by the VCCU people,” he says.
However tired he was, he stayed up at night worrying about his family and how they were surviving. And unfortunately one of his children fell sick and passed on. Kyazze’s 24-year-old son suffered from a diseased kidney. The illness was in its advanced stages and needed immediate medication, whose cost the family could not afford.
He becomes emotional at this point in the interview when talking about his son’s death. He breaks down. And in a shaky voice later, he says: “I was wounded when we lost him. My boy died in pain. It would have made a difference if I had a job.”
Bail and its conditions
While in jail, he never saw much of his family because it was expensive for them to travel to the prison. His only visitors were members of Mission after Custody, an organisation that rehabilitates ex-prisoners. These are regular visitors for most prisoners. It is missioners that also helped me get out of prison on bail after repeatedly trying in vain.